The New York Islanders will host the Toronto Maple Leafs tonight in a game that could have a significant impact on the Eastern Conference wild-card race. The Islanders are coming off a road win on Saturday and will be looking to solidify their position in the playoff hunt.
The Islanders just completed a successful West Coast trip that saw them win two out of three games. Right now, they are sitting two points ahead of the Pittsburgh Penguins and three points ahead of the Florida Panthers for a wild-card spot. However, the Islanders have a game in hand and can control their own destiny with a win over the Maple Leafs.
Tonight’s game will be the final meeting between the Islanders and Maple Leafs this season. It’s also a game where John Tavares returns “home” to New York, where he played for so many seasons. He hasn’t always gotten much of a kind reception from Islanders fans.
Let’s hope he has a great game and scores a couple of goals.
Related: How Maple Leafs Matt Murray Handles the Intense Stress of Shootouts
Quick Hit One: Maple Leafs Scoring on the Season So Far
Speaking of scoring, so far on the season, the Maple Leafs have had an impressive offensive display from their top players. In reviewing who the leading scorers are on the team, Mitchell Marner leads the team in scoring with 89 points (including 26 goals and 63 assists) in 69 games. William Nylander is ten points behind with 79 points. He leads the team in goals with 35.
Auston Matthews isn’t having the season that he had in 2021-22, but he’s scored 31 goals and added 39 assists (for 70 points) in just 62 games played. John Tavares rounds out the top four with 69 points in 68 games (that includes 30 goals and 39 assists). He’s at more than a point-a-game clip.
The team has also received contributions from their defensemen. Morgan Rielly leads the team with 36 points in 54 games played. Overall, the Maple Leafs’ scoring is solid. Other than Marner, no player is burning up the NHL, but the team is a talented and well-rounded group of players who’ve been performing at a high level all season.
Related: Ranking the Maple Leafs Best Goalies Since 1990
Quick Hit Two: Noel Acciari Ready to Return to Game Action
The latest update on Noel Acciari is that he participated in a full practice with the Maple Leafs yesterday and is expected to play tonight against the Islanders. Of course, that is barring any setbacks. He was skating on the regular fourth line with Zach Aston-Reese and David Kampf. Acciari has recorded just two points in his last 11 games.
Acciari impressed me during his time with the Maple Leafs. He has a well-rounded skillset and strong hockey IQ. While he might not be the flashiest player on the ice, he is physical and reliable. Is there ever a check he doesn’t finish?
He’s also found strong chemistry with Kampf, who is often overlooked. Together the two play vital roles in the team’s success. Not to forget Aston-Reese, who’s even picked up his scoring as well. It is a solid fourth line.
Related: Maple Leafs News & Rumors: Murray, Acciari, McCabe & Muzzin
Quick Hit Three: Line Combinations for Maple Leafs Game for New York Islanders
The Maple Leafs tried out a new set of lines during their practice yesterday. The top line featured Calle Jarnkrok, Auston Matthews, and Alexander Kerfoot. The second line saw Michael Bunting, John Tavares, and Mitch Marner together. The third line consisted of Bobby McMann, Sam Lafferty, and William Nylander. Finally, the fourth line saw Zach Aston-Reese, David Kampf, and Noel Acciari together.
Wayne Simmonds skated as the extra player.
On defense, the top pairing was Mark Giordano and Justin Holl. The second pairing was Jake McCabe and Timothy Liljegren. The third pairing saw Morgan Rielly and Erik Gustafsson together, and the fourth pairing (extras) consisted of Conor Timmins and Luke Schenn.
Notably absent from practice was TJ Brodie.
Earlier yesterday, head coach Sheldon Keefe noted that he had reshaped the lines as a way to get John Tavares and William Nylander going. However, the new line combinations also suggest that the Maple Leafs are looking to create three scoring lines with the right mix of players that will make life interesting during the postseason.
Generating more offense by providing a balanced three-line attack heading into the later part of the season will help the team prepare for the postseason.
Related: MAPLE LEAFS’ WILLIAM NYLANDER MOVED TO 3RD LINE: HOW COME?
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March 21, 2023 at 5:54 am
Concerned about pairing two offensive defensemen, Rielly and Gustafsson, together, especially when Rielly is lousy at defense. He’d be better with Schenn.
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March 21, 2023 at 9:45 am
The idea that a frnge NHL player in Lafferty and an AHL player in Mcann can get Nylander going is so stupid its not even laughable. The coach puts Bunting and Marner with Tavares to get him going look what he does to Nylander, He says Nylander is playing on the perimeter that is where he has to play as the defense first player he can’t go to the net and allow 3 on 2 rushes against.
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